Horse deaths overshadow Preakness Stakes as Mage seeks Triple Crown
Concerns over equine safety persist as Mage, the Kentucky Derby winner, prepares for the second leg of the US racing Triple Crown at the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. The recent deaths of seven horses within ten days at Churchill Downs, including two on May 6 during the Kentucky Derby, have cast a shadow over the prestigious event. Another colt was euthanized on Sunday due to a leg injury, bringing the total number of horse deaths at the iconic Kentucky track to eight in a matter of weeks.
Trainer Saffie Joseph was suspended by Kentucky racing officials after two of his horses collapsed and died for unknown reasons. Additionally, Derby favourite Forte was scratched hours before the race due to concerns over a hoof bruise. Consequently, Forte will not race in the Preakness as the colt was placed on the veterinary list and barred from racing for two weeks, reported Bangkok Post.
Maryland has also faced its own crisis, with five horses experiencing fatal accidents in racing or training at Laurel Park. This led to a temporary shutdown as track officials and horsemen discussed the conditions. Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, commented on the situation, stating, “You look at (the deaths) in the context of the number of races and starts, and it’s the smallest it’s been in decades because our protocols are better.”
Despite the concerns surrounding equine safety, the presence of the Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness raises the tantalising possibility of a Triple Crown year. Mage will face a host of new challengers, being the only Kentucky Derby runner in the field of eight. This is the first Preakness with just one Derby runner since 1969 when Majestic Prince won both races.
Mage’s owner Ramiro Restrepo said, “The horse is doing great, which is the most important thing. That gave us the green light to run, and whoever they line up in there is who we’ve got to race.” Mage, trained by Gustavo Delgado and ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, has been lightly raced, but his connections believe he is improving with every outing. Restrepo added, “We’re just waiting to see how much he has in the well of talent.”
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